I’ve been getting quite a bit of mail from readers lately. I suppose it’s to be expected when a page like this one begins to get reshared within various interest groups. It amuses me to read some of them, especially ones where it’s clear that the person writing has been building up some image of who I must be. Spend five minutes in the real world with me and I’ll cure you of any misconceptions you may have. I’m fairly unremarkable in person.
But then there are the earnest ones who are genuinely grateful because this page seems to give them the push they’ve been waiting for, for a long time, but struggled to muster themselves. They have long grown disillusioned with the spiritual circus, become nauseated by the satsang scene, have seen each of these gurus for the opportunistic snake oil salesmen that they are and yet….they still struggle to get out. To leave it behind. And a lot of that has to do with second guessing their own intuitions about what they are feeling now.
It doesn’t help that most of their friends (and in some cases, even family members or spouses) are still very much a part of that scene. And to step away from it would, in many ways, mean alienating themselves from people they were once close to. Those who have attempted to communicate their newfound points of view with friends have been met by general consternation. An unwillingness to listen to what they might have to say.
But perhaps the biggest block that seems to prevent them from making a clean break of it is a purely psychological one. Admitting to the vacuousness of the whole spiritual culture is to admit that they have wasted years, even decades of their lives on a charade. This one is too hard a pill to swallow for most.
All that time, energy and money spent …. all that hardship, feeling misunderstood by the rest of society yet finding camaraderie and safe haven in a community of like minds….all those hours spent meditating, inquiring, moving from this technique to that practice, this teacher to that guru in the hopes that they are progressing….all those books they read, those talks and retreats they attended, those relationships they sacrificed, those responsibilities they gave up on in the belief that the search would eventually yield its fruits….so that one day they might finally find what they were searching for…to look back and find it was all worth it….
…and yet, after all that, to finally arrive at the point of discovering it was all a hoax. A giant charade they played with others. Everyone fibbing, everyone pretending, everyone misleading, everyone posturing because they were all so terrified of being found out.
What does one do? It’s terribly deflating. To think that while the rest of the world went about it’s business you were on a wild goose chase for the better part of your adult life creates a cognitive dissonance that is too intense to bear. And at the end of it all, what do you have to show for any of it? Absolutely nada.
You’re not enlightened, you’re not an ascended master, you’re not an adept, you’re not even all that wise. You’re just an average joe like the mailman or the bank teller.
And so faced with the alternative of what living this “new truth” looks like, most go right back to the satsangs, the retreats, the seminars and so on because that’s the only world that feels familiar any more even if it has become entirely hollow to them. It’s like being unable to leave a bad marriage because you are just too used to being together and the entire social setup that comes with it. Leaving any enterprise that one has dedicated so many years of their life to often feels like a giant admission of failure.
Yet, those who somehow manage to push past those social and psychological barriers and step into their new sober realities, fully owning the responsibilities and repercussions that comes with, find that failure is an essential step towards authenticity.
When one is authentic, an inordinate amount of energy gets freed up within the system. A reader recently asked me how I can keep writing at this pace when he can hardly keep up with reading. It honestly feels mostly effortless to me. The words come, the ideas organize, the sentences form and the whole piece comes together with very little prompting on my part. I’m able to write, respond and moderate this page while maintaining two jobs and being an actively involved husband and dad to two young children. And I’m never that tired even though I barely sleep.
It may come across like I’m tooting my own horn but I’m not. The reason I can function like this is because I waste not an ounce of energy on bullshit. I don’t smile unless I feel like smiling, I’m not kind unless kindness is naturally forthcoming, I’m not polite or considerate unless I feel naturally polite or considerate in the moment. I don’t posture myself as anything other than what I am in any given moment. I spend little time worrying about things that are not part of my actual reality.
I don’t think we realize the immense amount of energy it takes to be “someone else”, even for an hour. It’s positively exhausting. And we’re doing it all day – making facial expressions that aren’t truly representative of the emotions we are feeling, holding our bodies taut and using body language that is constantly seeking validation from others, using words that are unfaithful to what we truly think. And now imagine doing all of this not only out in the open with others, but also within ourselves and to ourselves. It’s no wonder that we feel depleted, uninspired, disoriented and totally confused at the end of it. It takes incredible energy to sustain this web of insincerity that we weave around our lives and ourselves.
One person I chatted with recently, said that reading my stuff and watching me take the pants off all these elevated, enlightened types empowered them to really double down on their own sense of just being an ordinary everyday bloke and realizing just how special that feels. He said that he had been trying to become “enlightened” like his gurus because he always projected them as being these super confident, powerful, all knowing, all peaceful types while he was this mess of a human who didn’t have his shit together and in comparison he felt pathetic.
However, after reading my stuff he said he felt like he and I weren’t all that different. He didn’t feel like I was superior to him in any way. Yet, the clarity with which I express myself and the confidence that comes from my simply owning my mediocrity, my averageness, my own “unenlightenedness” made him feel like he had been barking up the wrong tree all along.
I’ve pondered on why this page has expanded from a readership of 1 to over 700 registered followers, and several more following silently, in the span of less than a year. It’s not because I’m projecting an image of enlightenment. Nor is any of the wisdom or philosophy I spout anything you haven’t heard before. I might have a unique delivery and engaging storytelling style but that’s not what’s drawing people.
I think what gets people is the honesty. Because while the rest of these clowns are all busy talking ABOUT the truth, I’m just sitting here telling the truth. And it doesn’t even matter what that truth is. It resonates with readers on one day. It doesn’t resonate on another day. It sounds incredibly profound on one day. It sounds quite shallow on another. It’s serious and inspiring on one day. It’s raunchy and offensive on another day. Half the time I’m contradicting what I’ve written in a previous post. It’s not the content that draws people, it’s the candidness. It’s not “what” I’m saying, it’s the “how”.
I’ve claimed no secret knowledge, no mastery, no great achievement, not even a remediated ego. I’ve left no room for a pedestal on which to be put on, and yet, I stand out. And the reason I do, has less to do with how special I am and more to do with how rotten and disingenuous this whole culture of spirituality is. The kinds of characters people have been subjected to in the forms of their gurus and teachers are some of the most disingenuous people you could meet.
Just because they are supposed to be talking about the truth doesn’t make them truthful. Lawyers are meant to help people get justice, but hardly anyone ever trusts them. And so, in a basketful of perfectly polished rotten apples, the one fresh apple stands out by default, even though it is just an ordinary apple. Because you can smell it.
Honesty supersedes any ideal of enlightenment one can come up with. Because while enlightenment has to do with “perceiving the truth”, honesty is the actual living of it.
And ironically, honesty is something everybody understands. It isn’t some vague, ambiguous or esoteric thing like enlightenment. It’s real. We know what it is. Honesty is down-to-earth and grounded in “what this is”. It isn’t something we elevate and put on a pedestal. A man who claims to be honest is not going to have devotees flocking to him like the man who claims to be enlightened.
Most of the readers on this page are seasoned seekers. They can spout philosophy as well as nisargadatta or ramana could. Yet, words only take us so far. What lies beyond the words is real life. And engaging with real life requires that we GET REAL.
When the search ends and all the spiritual shenanigans conclude is when you are left with nothing but yourself to face. No gurus, no community, no support structure, no culture, no garb, no Namastes, no drum circles, no satsangs, no quest for enlightenment, no words to satisfy your voracious appetite. Not even a farewell cake or pat on the back for all the time you spent. Just you alone on your own two feet and a vast, unknown landscape ahead.
That is when spirituality truly begins.